A journalist and an author, Nish Amarnath has written bestsellers such as ‘The Voyage to Excellence’, ‘Citi and its Scuffle with the Watchdogs’. Her latest book ‘Victims for Sale’ is a crime-thriller which follows the struggles of a young female journalist against all odds. Her articles have also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, MSN Money, International Business Times, India Today, The Hindu, New Indian Express and Times of India’s city supplements, among others.
|bookGeeks:||Tell us something about Nish as a person.|
|Nish:||I believe that we are each unique yet part of a larger, universal consciousness. I journey through different worlds and alternate realities both within and outside of myself. I seek to unveil and share the experiences of those journeys through my writings, poetry, music and art. I often joke that it is wiser to be uninterestingly interesting rather than interestingly uninteresting. By uninterestingly interesting, I am referring to intense thought and reflections of truth, as we see it – aspects that might fascinate those who connect with you deeply enough, even if you say little at the outset. By interestingly uninteresting, I mean a tendency to say far too much far too often when there is, in fact, a paucity of thought or substance.|
|bookGeeks:||Your latest book, Victims for Sale is a dark tale. Tell us something about it.|
|Nish:||Victims for Sale is a nuanced take on the human psyche in its extremes of light and darkness – the depths of human depravity and the exaltedness of unconditional love. |
This crime thriller unravels the struggles of a young female journalist against all odds in a land outside of her home as she fights for the rights of mentally challenged women.
Within the contours of a traditional Indian household in the egalitarian setting of London, the book also addresses what kind of impact maintaining family honour at all costs will have on one’s physical, psychological and spiritual well being.
Finally, this intensely gripping novel offers a psychological portrayal of the antagonist(s) in question against the backdrop of a complex moral compass.
|bookGeeks:||What in your opinion makes a good thriller?|
|Nish:||For me, a good thriller is a page-turner that strikes a fine balance between pace, plot twists that have little or no loopholes and impressions of the gamut of emotions that the characters in question each go through. A compelling thriller carries scenes that build up momentum and conclude abruptly, leaving readers yearning for more, rendering them incapable of doing anything else unless they plough through the next scene or chapter to figure out what is going on!|
|bookGeeks:||What has been your biggest achievement as an author?|
|Nish:||I debuted as an author at the age of 18 with The Voyage to Excellence (2005), a critically acclaimed and elaborately researched business biography based on personal interactions and interviews with India’s top 21 women business leaders ranging from Bollywood’s Ekta Kapoor to cosmetic czarina Shahnaz Husain and Naina Lal Kidwai, HSBC India’s country head and deputy CEO at the time. The book was presented to Indian National Congress President Sonia Gandhi and launched officially in New Delhi by Renuka Chowdhury, Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development at the time. It has also been featured in the libraries of the Indian parliament.|
The Voyage to Excellence was an extension of a weekly ‘Entrepreneurs’ column I wrote for The New Indian Express in 2004. This debut book established me as the youngest non-fiction (business) author at the time. Among other things, I was conferred with the Infosys-Activity India Young Achiever Award by Mr. Narayana Murthy of Infosys and the Real Woman Achiever Award by the Duchess Club of Madras for distinctive contribution to literature. I was also featured as a National Youth Icon by The Week (Magazine) in India and became the youngest student to enroll at a post-graduate programme in media and communications research at the London School of Economics in 2006.
More than those developments, I would say that the innocence and idealism that spilled into my work during my earlier days as a student set the stage for what now looks to be a budding literary career.
|bookGeeks:||If you had a chance to collaborate with an author for writing a thriller, who will it be?|
|Nish:||That would have to be Gillian Flynn. Gillian lends a complex psychological schema to her characters in a way that feels very raw and real. Her novels not only have a gripping plot but also catalyze a process of consciously or unconsciously urging readers to purge the darkness within them by reacquainting with it and releasing it. Her stories also strike a fine balance between unexpected plot twists and a passage into the states of minds of the characters in question, and this pattern is one that deeply resonates with my own approach to writing a thriller. We could be a perfect combination of yin and yang if we were to team up!|
|bookGeeks:||What are your other interests apart from writing?|
|Nish:||Apart from writing, I sing, write and compose songs and paint occasionally. I am trained in Hindustani Classical and Carnatic music and have more recently been singing and composing songs in the operatic pop genre with symphonic metal and/or Catholic rock arrangements. Yes, I’m a huge fan of Nightwish! I enjoy painting photo-realistic portraits and landscapes (oil on canvas) that reflect a symbolism of life. I also write poetry. Other interests include swimming, travelling in Europe, landscaping new locales to pick up scenes for my stories, driving long distances for no good reason and, occasionally, cooking.|
|bookGeeks:||You have been bestowed with many awards and recognitions. Which is the closest to your heart?|
|Nish:||I do not believe in singling out a particular award or honour; every award or form of recognition has a space in my heart.|
However, a short story that I do fondly remember writing in my teens is ‘Children of God,’ an apologue, which meanders through the evolving relationship between two siblings, one of whom is mentally challenged. The story begins with a woman receiving a Desh ki Roshan honour for her contributions to the well being of mentally challenged children in her capacity as the principal of a special-needs school. Her relationship with her younger, mentally challenged brother is portrayed as a flashback and a catalyst for her mission to nurture special needs children with unconditional love. The story won first place in a national-level competition conducted by Children’s Book Trust in New Delhi in 2002 and was published in the Children’s World magazine. I felt that the writing, although less evolved, came out in the form of a raw, real and poignantly told narrative infused with a blend of tragedy and hope that brought to light the intrinsic vulnerabilities of each character, the transience of life and the inevitability of love and loss.
|bookGeeks:||Would you like to share a few words of wisdom for aspiring writers?|
|Nish:||It is important to be aware of your own voice as a writer. This involves being more connected to yourself. |
Secondly, I’ve learned that being open to new experiences and new pathways, good or bad, helps renew one’s perspective, provide a grounding for new settings and characters and give free play to the wealth of creativity and imagination we each have within.
Stories are intrinsic to human nature; we live to tell, retell and listen to stories—stories of mythological folklore, stories of ancestry that are passed down from one generation to the other, accounts of war and grief, stories of love, loss, adversity, resilience and spiritual awakening. Each life is a story that is unique in itself. A good writer honours that and seeks to do justice to how best a story can be told and what genre will do that story most justice. So, genre, in itself, is secondary.
Writing can be like swimming in an ocean with no end in sight. But it can be rewarding if you write from your heart and soul. People pick up on that kind of vibe and value the uniqueness that comes along with it. This involves tremendous patience and endurance replete with years of practice—not because you want to become clinically perfect in it, but because you enjoy it.
It is critical to read multiple authors and writers across all genres and formats, ranging from sci-fi, medical thrillers, literary fiction, philosophy and poetry to theories, monographs, white papers, op-eds, articles and news pegs. I personally love Wilfred Owen’s war poems, Geoffrey Chaucer’s oeuvres, Sidney Sheldon’s psychological thrillers, Pablo Neruda’s poetry and more broadly speaking, articles on political economy and cultural displacement – that’s a mishmash of sorts!
Finally, writing isn’t a career. It is a lifeblood that must feel right in your heart and resonate in your soul. Sometimes, you don’t choose writing. Writing chooses you.
Buy a copy of her book ‘Victims for Sale’ from the link below.